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Michigan bar owner featured on ‘Bar Rescue’ sent to jail for tax evasion

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Bar owner Brian M. "Mike" Flore faces up to five years in prison for tax evasion. He appeared on an episode of Spike TV's popular "Bar Rescue." (Michigan Department of Corrections)

Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” helps struggling business owners turn restaurant duds into swanky dives.

But there are some cases so hopeless, even star and bar expert Jon Taffer can’t fix them up.

Brian M. "Mike" Flore, the owner of The Arena, a bar in downtown Ann Arbor, Mich., featured on the popular rehab show was just sentenced to serve up to five years in prison for failing to pay taxes over the past 10 years. 

According to Michigan Live, an auditor determined The Arena collected $9 million in taxable sales from customers over the years-- which resulted in approximately $700,000 in state taxes. Instead of handing that money over to the state, the bar owner pocketed it illegally. Flore must now pay $1.5 million, double the amount of taxes owed, in restitution.

Flore, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion in July 2015, was initially granted a delayed sentencing but allegedly quit cooperating with the state, according to Attorney General Bill Scheutte. He was eventually charged on 120 counts of failure to file taxes – one count for every month missed over the last decade. 

The former bar owner will now serve a prison sentence between 24-to-60 months.

The Arena, a a modern sports bar, appeared in an episode of “Bar Rescue” that aired last fall. At the time of filming, Flore had already pleaded guilty to tax evasion. During the show, minor renovations were made to the bar’s interior and the menu was updated.

During the episode, Flore talks about being in the hole for $1 million with host Taffer but later recanted. In an interview with The Ann Arbor News that ran after the episode aired, Flore called the figure inaccurate and said he was egged on by certain producers.

“I can't really call this reality TV anymore," said Flore. "After this, I have to call it semi-reality TV."

As of Thursday, The Arena was still open for business and has a three-and-a-half star Yelp rating.